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August 7, 2012

EMI to release 'Fifty Shades of Grey' classical album selected by E L James

The hubbub about "Fifty Shades of Grey" seems to have focused primarily on all the sexy stuff and the efforts in some corners -- including Maryland, my Maryland -- to keep the hyper-bestseller by E L James off of library shelves.

But, for me, the hottest thing about the book is the classical music referenced in the steamy pages. Any mention -- non-dismissive mention, that is -- of classical music in mainstream culture has got to be a good thing.

Sure enough, one of the pieces that turns up in "Fifty Shades of Grey," a 16th-century motet piece by Thomas Tallis, is already a chart-buster.

A years-old recording of that music by the wonderful Tallis Scholars -- E L James' personal recommendation -- started a downloading frenzy on iTunes, helping it hit No. 1 on the UK Classical Singles Chart ("Fifty Shades of Grey" just became the best-selling book ever in Britain).

Pretty neat to think that so many E L James readers could be turned into early music fans.

Now comes word that James herself has chosen 15 shades of classical music from her trilogy -- "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Fifty Shades Darker," "Fifty Shades Freed" -- and these 15 tracks will be featured on an album from EMI. Among the stellar artists represented on the album: Adrian Boult, Riccardo Muti, Alexandre Tharaud, Arleen Auger and, of course, the Tallis Scholars. The digital release is set for ...

Aug. 15; the physical CD will be out Sept. 18.

You don't have to wait until then to get a taste of what's in store. As a public service, I have thoughtfully provided a sampler below, using YouTube versions of the tracks that will be on the EMI release.

Most of the music for the album is not as esoteric as the Tallis item. We're talking lots of greatest hits here -- maybe E L James did her writing while listening to one of the innumerable collections of reissued classical pieces EMI and other labels have released steadily over the years.

Nothing wrong with introducing a whole bunch of new listeners to certified classics, of course; that's one way to ensure that the hits will stay hits.

Bach is represented by three keyboard works -- the profound Aria from the Goldberg Variations, a transcription of the lilting "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring," and the sublime Adagio from Bach's transcription on an Alessandro Marcello oboe concerto.

The ubiquitous Canon in D by Pachelbel is included. Piano pieces by Chopin, Debussy ("The Girl With the Flaxen Hair") and Rachmaninoff (a movement from Concerto No. 2, of course) are also in the mix.

The world of opera is represented by the Prelude to Verdi's "La Traviata" and the lovely Flower Duet from Delibes' "Lakme," familiar from many a TV commercial.

The Tallis motet is in the mix. Another exquisite choral work, this one from centuries later, also made the cut -- "In Paradisum" from Faure's Requiem. A vocal solo is here, too -- the deliciously shimmering "Bailero" from Canteloube's "Songs of the Auvergne."

Here's a sampling of what's in store:


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


Ha! This is a brilliant marketing tie-in. Love it.

But I thought the book was salacious? What does that have to do w Tallis or Bach. Let people find classical music on their own without help from some one who will steer them to chestnuts- it cheapens the originally beautiful chestnuts- a very shallow review. What's the connection- the fact that some hack romance novelist might like classical music? Must b like listening to the Pachelbel Canon on an elevator- it demeans the music- which is on a higher plane.
capcha is way too difficult
stop bothering me

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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